What Have They Done To Commander Keen

What Have They Done To Commander Keen

The good news: Commander Keen is back! The bad news: everything else about that piece of information.

The Commander Keen games are an international treasure. Kicking off in 1990, they showed — on a platform awash with strategy games and flight sims — that the PC could be home to quality platformers as well.

The originals still play well to this day, but Keen’s cult status and place in history have long been calling out for a modern interpretation of the character and his side-scrolling action.

Bethesda took to the stage earlier today during their E3 press conference and … kinda did that. But instead of announcing a new Commander Keen as a vibrant take on a 90s classic, a faithful reimagining of a long-running and important series, we got some free-to-play mobile gaming bullshit:

That was upsetting to watch.

As is this:

The entire original collection is going for spare change right now if you’d like a palette cleanser.


  • wow, seems to be natural these days, lets just make a game based on a game from 20-30+ years ago and take money from people.

    Massive failure.

    • Ikr. First Command and Conquer, now Keen… Please stop destroying my PC gaming childhood. ;.;

        • Sidebar – I’d be so happy if they released a remastered Jazz Jackrabbit collection. Epic published that, didn’t they? Wonder who has the rights…

          • Sadly, I think Epic would be reluctant to do that seeing as his brother’s name is Spaz, and apparently it’s no longer acceptable to use the word, even though it’s a very rare depiction of a spastic character in popular culture. As the brother of a sibling with spasticity (as well as a young cousin), it was refreshing to see such a depiction (and my sister enjoyed the games too) even if it was unintentional.

          • I don’t think Spazz actually had a disability, canonically. The term spaz in the U.S. is a slang term meaning someone who is unco-ordinated, it’s a bit removed from it’s original usage. Spastic and spasticity are indeed politically incorrect, due to their usage and association as derogatory slang.

      • Place your bets!

        On hidden gems from people’s past that’s been collecting dust that can be cash grabbed, I’m thinking….Lemmings!

        • Oh…..hate to break it to you. That’s already happened. Looks like the original though, I think.

      • Earlier – This is Apogee days, so probably got shuffled off during various interim restructures and sell offs

        • Apogee were the publishers, but id were the developers. Depends which of them retained ownership of the IP but if Bethesda’s using it today then it’s probably a safe bet id came out with it in the end.

  • F2P is a bad idea, for obvious reasons. The rest of it seems to tick the right boxes though: kids as target audience, main character(s) a kid, cartoon visuals. The platforming is simplified and the movement is a bit slow, but those seems like deliberate choices for a touch interface vs more responsive keyboard controls.

    The game is obviously not for me, but then I’m not a kid any more like I was when the original games came out. Primary school-age kids that aren’t already desensitised by Fortnite and GTA might find this as fun as we found the original platformer when we were kids.

  • All i could think about during this ad was that within the “iDverse” all the protagonists are supposed to be related. Wolfenstein Guy is the grandparent of > Commander Keen who is the father of > FTP micro transaction kids who are then the ancestors of > Doomguy/doomslayer.


    • There’s a shot in the announcement trailer that has BJ from Machine Games’ Wolfenstein, his daughters from Youngblood (who are now Billy’s mother and aunt, apparently), and grown-up Billy Blaze as the dad.

  • The art style seems fine, and targeting mobile isn’t that bad an idea: one of my young cousins played games almost exclusively on an iPad and would probably have found console controllers a bit intimidating. If that means something different from an old school side scrolling platformer, then so be it.

    While it might be nice to have a nostalgia driven remake aimed at existing fans, I’m okay with them targeting children the age I was when the original games came out.

    Going free to play with microtransactions in a children’s game is a terrible idea. That kind of predatory behaviour is my only real complaint.

    • Realistically though, if this was solely aimed at children they didn’t need to use the Keen IP. There’s literally thousands of garbage f2p games like this on the app store aimed at kids. By using the Keen IP, a license that hasn’t been used in 30 years, they were aiming for cross-generational appeal – something adults will play with their children. But they’ve made a classic error – they changed up the formula too much. This is almost unrecognizable as a Keen game. It’s just another cash cow f2p clicker.
      I’m all for producing games for kids, and I love the idea of my daughter discovering the fun of video games. But this is a misplaced attempt at hedging their bets. The idea that original Keen fans would lose their minds and wallets over this is short-sighted at best, and disappointing at worst. The predatory f2p model is just the icing on this garbage sandwich.

      • In the scenario where a parent is choosing a game for their child to play, using a name that is familiar from their own childhood actually seems quite smart. It could be the hook that makes the game stand out from the crowd.

  • There’s some defence of this by pointing out that it’s aimed at children. But I remember playing N64 at a friend’s house when I was 6 years old and that controller isn’t easy to use even now as an adult. Also kids younger than that arguably shouldn’t be playing video games at all, so there really isn’t any justification.

  • When I was just young boy, my old man introduced me to the joys of gaming. There were two games here showed me.

    Worms 3D and the other was Commander Keen.

    The memories of building a computer of my own, to play these games in my room (And learning DOS, to launch said games) are near and dear to my heart.
    My father and I, don’t have the strongest bond with our interests being very different.
    As games jumped to 3D, they became “too complicated” for him and left him behind.
    While games like Dwarf Fortress that need an encyclopedia get my blood pumping and my hands sweating.

    I clicked with the excitement, that after nearly 20 years since I played Keen, that there might be come back, something to older and new generations to get around.
    This is not my or my old man’s Commander.
    Bethesda says his name is Keen, but just because you say it is, doesn’t make it so.

    This impostor is the attempts at violating the memory of my childhood.
    Shame on you Bethesda, least EA might get a pass now on Dungeon Keeper thanks to this


  • “commander keen, they’ve got lot’s of pluck. commander keen, they don’t give a fuck”

    lol who is this game aimed at

  • Honestly, Keen isnt even back. His bloody kids are… wtf is that even. Everything about this screams fail.

    • Not only that but Commander Keen/Billy Blaze’s kids are named Billy and Billie. Wow, breaking new ground there, Zenimax.

  • I don’t think you could do a straight sequel; the games have been dormant for so long, and the original game was a sidescrolling platformer on PC with a gun! They hold up, more or less, but the franchise has been thoroughly overtaken by everyone else and you’d have to overhaul it something fierce for it to have a point.

    Meanwhile, the actual property itself is 40 years old and would need to be completely revamped. It’s based on pulp serials, which were within the 30-year nostagia bubble at the time (Indiana Jones is drawing from the same well) but are now a reference no-one gets. It’s a small enough setting that if you don’t go to Mars or the Shikadi Shadowlands, it’s a wild departure from what came before (especially because you can’t just do a straight platformer), and if you do it’s creatively bankrupt. (They went to a lot of space stations.) The cast is small enough that you’d have to add new characters. Games are a lot chattier than they used to be. Because it’s not the 80s any more you’ll need a girl who can keep up with Billy, and you could do an alien but a fellow human hyper-genius makes sense and making them twins means you keep the Blazkowicz/Blaze lineage of heroes thing going, which I think we all enjoy.

    So I can see where they got ‘let’s base it on Saturday morning cartoons’ because that’s the 90s version of pulp serials. I can see where they got the Blaze twins. I can see where they got what looks to be some kind of… tactical platformer thing? Going heavily into gadgets makes a ton of sense given the premise of pre-teen hyper geniuses, and honestly is something the original games dropped the ball on. I can even see PC not making business sense.

    What I can’t see is why they a) announced this at E3, knowing mobile games announced at PC shows tend to get furious coverage, b) why they showed a game that looked half-assed, half-finished and no fun, and c) why ZeniMax Online Studios is making a microtransaction-laden game when Fallout Shelter was such a success for them.

  • I was ready for ‘this is terrible and unrelated gameplay’ not ‘what you guys don’t have phones?”

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